DJ Captain Charles spins at Essence Festival again. The immensely popular deejay and Old School 106.7 FM radio host, who made his first appearance at Essence in the late 1990s, is familiar with the setting. He figures he’s performed at the festival around 10 times working his turntable primarily in the Superdome’s intimate superlounges. He even headed to Houston with the event following Hurricane Katrina.
What was it like for you the first time you performed at Essence?
It was a great experience. The first year I did it was a Saturday and Doug E. Fresh was on a Friday but he missed his flight. The promoters told him, ‘If you want to do it Saturday, you have to call Captain Charles.’ He gave me a call and I just told him, ‘How can I turn down a legend like you?’ So the first time meeting him was when we did the show together.
Do you select material specifically for the Essence crowd?
I kind of read the crowd and see about the crowd based on the first song I play. It could be old school or new school or could be an R&B song. Old school is the most popular—anything that you play by Maze or any line dance that you do always goes over.
You can also do DJ Kool, Funkadelic, Earth, Wind & Fire and the Gap Band, they are crowd-pleasing songs.
How might that repertoire differ from other gigs you do like your regular outdoor appearance Uptown on Super Sunday?
Every set that I do is different. When I do Super Sunday the crowd is diverse so I try to cater to the crowd—I try to cater to everybody.
Do you go hear other performers when you’re playing the Fest or as an attendee?
Normally, when I get off the stage at Essence, I have another gig to do outside the Dome. I’m always busy during Essence. When Prince was at Essence , I saw him practicing and on stage he had Doug E. Fresh, Chaka Khan, Sheila E. and Maceo Parker. I was just sittin’ in watching the rehearsal. I was enjoying that.
What is your favorite aspect of Essence Fest and what makes it enjoyable for you as an artist?
The beautiful part of it is that it brings everybody together with one cause and at the same time you get educated on black history and it’s a party with a purpose. You’re entertaining people from all over the world, not just locals. If you can get those people to react to the music that you’re playing and smile and dance and scream, ‘Oh, that’s my song!’ that’s what I love.